How To Stop Nightmares with Lucid Dreaming

How I become lucid in nightmares: to confront the source of my fear, to learn and grow emotionally, and to extinguish dark dreams at the root cause.

How to Stop Nightmares with Lucid Dreaming

I was walking down a hallway with my dad when it happened. A dark, pointy figure grabbed me by the ankles and flung me down the hall. I was shocked and in pain. But before I knew what was happening, he marched over to me and did it again. He was furious. He was going to destroy me. And I had nothing.

Except for my lucidity. After smashing against the wall for the second time, my fear became so intense that it jolted me into realizing the simple truth: "I'm dreaming!"

In an instant, my nightmare transformed from a world of sheer terror to a universe of endless possibilities. I was then lucid dreaming: consciously aware in the dream state, capable of thinking clearly, experiencing the dream in extraordinary detail, and controlling my own actions.

Usually at this point, I fly away and pursue some fanciful adventure. I might dive into the ocean, visit the Grand Canyon, or summon a movie star to play a role in my dream.

But my lucid dreams are not limited by my own conscious imagination, because what I can't dream up, my unconscious mind can. The unconscious mind is brimming with surreal imagery. I've seen the lucid dream world in 360-degree vision, I've drawn dream characters in the air and watched them come to life, and I've tunneled into the ground only to emerge in the sky below.

In lucid dreams I can relinquish control and let the dream scenario play on, so that I'm just a passive observer, experiencing the dream in all its wonderful intensity. Or I can take the reigns and explore my dream actively, seeking to fulfil my own personal goals and desires.

What should I do with my lucid dream tonight?

Confronting My Nightmare

On this occasion, I chose to do something special. I decided to turn the nightmare in on itself. To confront the source of my fear and ask outright what was happening. I had to know why I was being so badly mistreated like this.

While still reeling from the violence of the silhouette man, I marched up to him, grabbed him by the shoulders, and yelled: "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!"

His aggression immediately turned to sadness. I saw a childish frustration. A hopeless creature. "I can't reconcile this," he said. Those were his words. Not childish at all.

Then he handed me a notepad, much like the one I used in my own daily work, and saw he had scrawled four words: be loved / love yourself.

I knew exactly what he was talking about. Earlier that day I'd been having a discussion about whether it's more important to be loved by someone else, or to love yourself. I figured my conclusion that day was in conflict with one of my core beliefs. And now this part of me was acting out in a huge tantrum.

But instead of fearing him or feeling angry, I felt enormous empathy for him. He was, after all, me. My inner child, perhaps. A little part of me that needed to mature.

I'm still not entirely sure how he figured into things. I could guess that he was furious that I'd decided I didn't want or need to be loved by other people anymore. Poor thing. He'd misunderstood.

I explained how I felt. How important it was, I'd realized, to love and accept myself as a priority. Before I could even learn how to properly accept someone else's love.

That was enough, apparently, because that night he faded away from the dream, both physically and emotionally, and I never saw him again. I woke up in awe.

Final Thoughts

That wasn't the first time I've confronted a nightmare figure while lucid. And it won't be the last time either.

This amazing ability to communicate with the dream while lucid has changed my view of nightmares for good. They aren't a source of fear; they are an opportunity to grow.

You can analyze your nightmares upon waking. You can tell them to your therapist. You can offload your feelings onto their real-life counterparts.

But for lucid dreamers, this is one empowering and effective way to resolving internal conflicts in the moment.

About The Author

About The Author

Rebecca Casale is a lucid dreamer and a science writer with a special interest in biology and the brain. She is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming and Science Me.